CONSIDER THIS: if you were suffering with a life-threatening illness and you were offered a medicine which was a known cure—would you not take it?
The Bible offers a cure that will save your life. And more than that, this cure can give you eternal life.
How can this be, you might ask? Let’s look at how the Bible, the Word of God, promises eternal life in a perfect world. To do this we must examine a few passages to see what this entails.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God (John 3:16–18).
Jesus, the Son of God, came into the world to save people. People are sinful, that is they are naturally inclined to disobey the commandments of God. The Gospel message which Jesus preached consists of the good news of God’s coming Kingdom on earth, the forgiveness of sins, resurrection from the dead and the hope of eternal life in the Kingdom of God.
God’s plan for humankind could only be realised through the saving work of the Lord Jesus Christ. He himself said so: ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’ (John 14:6). All who hear his message and desire to follow him must take his words into their hearts, and obey his commandments.
The Rich Young Man
And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments” (Matthew 19:16–17).
The man asked which commandments, and in the next verse Jesus gave him a list, which was distilled from Exodus 20:12–16 and Deuteronomy 5:16–20. But he omitted one of the principal commandments: ‘You shall not covet your neighbour’s house; you shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbour’s’ (Exodus 20:17). His reason for doing so was because he knew that this was the problem of this particular man. So when he said ‘All these I have kept. What do I still lack?’ (v. 20), Jesus told him: ‘If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me’ (v. 21). The man could not do this (v. 22). His riches were a stumbling-block in his life, which was preventing him from obtaining the eternal life he sought.
To obtain God’s gift of eternal life, we must be willing to obey Him. We see it is a constant refrain throughout the Bible. Sadly, people throughout history have found this hard to do—because our natural tendency is to ‘go own own way’ and do what we want to do rather than what God wants us to do.
Few Are Chosen
Not everyone will be saved. In Matthew 22:1–14 Jesus told a parable about a wedding feast. The invited guests did not want to attend, so the invitation went out to all and sundry (v. 10); then there was a guest who was improperly dressed, he should not have been there, and was ejected from the feast (vs. 11–13). ‘Many are called, but few are chosen’ (v. 14).
Not everyone who hears the Gospel responds positively to it, as illustrated by another of Jesus’ parables in Luke 8:5–8:
“A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell along the path and was trampled underfoot, and the birds of the air devoured it. And some fell on the rock, and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it. And some fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold.” As he said these things, he called out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
People had difficulty hearing and understanding his words, so he explained (vs. 9–15): the seed is the word of God. The path is a hard heart where the seed cannot germinate; the rock is a place where the soil is shallow, and the seed germinates but then withers because it doesn’t have good roots; in the thorny ground there is too much else going on, and the seed fails to bear fruit. But the good ground is an ‘honest and good heart’ where the seed can germinate, grow and bear fruit.
A true believer must be right with God in their life. It is all too easy to merely pay lip service to our faith. When King Saul had made a half-hearted attempt to serve God, the prophet Samuel said to him ‘Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams’ (1 Samuel 15:22).
The Narrow Door
Someone asked Jesus, ‘Lord, will those who are saved be few?’ (Luke 13:23). He replied, ‘ Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able’ (v. 24). The word “strive” here is translated from a Greek word which means “to agonise”: the true Christian life is not easy to live. To emphasise this further, Jesus said anyone who chooses to follow him must ‘take up his cross’ (Luke 9:23).
He also warned that discipleship should not be taken on lightly, it needs commitment:
For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?
Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’ (Luke 14:28–30).
The Reward of Endurance
Despite the hardship which can be part of the life of a disciple of Christ, there is the prospect of great rewards if they endure to the end, the greatest being everlasting life in the Kingdom of God. The Apostle Paul says that there are very great and wonderful prospects ahead for believers who attain eternal life: ‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him’ (1 Corinthians 2:9). The Lord Jesus Christ declared ‘Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay everyone for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates’ (Revelation 22:12–14).
Eternal life, immortality in the kingdom of God, is the ultimate prize. We must strive for it, but we cannot earn it—it will not be attained by our own merit, but it will be given by the grace of God—‘For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God’ (Ephesians 2:8).
Grahame A Cooper